Law and order are the bedrock of a society. The recent happenings in South Africa following the arrest and jailing of their former President can attest to that. Vast areas and investments in Gauteng Province and KwaZulu Natal among others have been reduced to rubble. At first, apartheid regime was cited as an oppressor, so they got rid of it. Then, they blamed other Africans for taking their opportunities and started xenophobic attacks. Law and order had to be restored by armed forces.
A mindset shift is required when it comes to our very important boda boda sector. This sector represents the motorcycle industry that is operated for PSV purposes across the country and which employs close to a million Kenyans. The sector is also responsible for a lot of the courier services which together with the Toyota Probox car have largely replaced the half ton pickup from the Kenyan roads.
Boda boda came about either by fluke or by design during the era of the Narc government under President Mwai Kibaki and his then Trade Minister Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi. Boda boda today is a mammoth employer of our youth and with the impending general elections in a year’s time, many politicians will be dangling carrots to them.
However, the boda boda sector is an untamed tiger where law and order needs to be restored. During the inception of boda boda nearly 15 years ago, car motorists would harass the boda boda riders by pushing them off the road and by generally feeling more entitled. This led to boda boda riders ganging up to help their victimized colleague, a culture that stuck and ran amok.
Today, woe unto a motorist who hits one of the boda boda riders. The other riders will gang up on you, extort you, rob you and even burn your vehicle. They might also physically assault you. Basically this is nothing but robbery with violence, a criminal offence that carries capital punishment repercussions.
It’s sad to note that the boda boda sector has continued to strive in this disorderly manner due to the difficulty in identifying both the motorcycle and the rider. The small size of their number plate does not help either.
Boda boda riders will ride without a valid driving license, without insurance and without due regard to the traffic rules. Many Kenyans have lost their lives, been maimed or bereaved because of the rowdiness of boda boda riders.
It is a well-known fact that over 1,000 motorcyclists and passengers lose their lives every year on Kenyan roads. Whole wards in all major hospitals have over the years been set up for victims of boda boda road accidents.
To address the ease of identification and therefore ease of punishment, it is necessary to employ the great advances of information technology (IT).Using artificial intelligence capabilities, it should be possible to affix onto every motorcycle chassis an irremovable transponder that is readable from remote sensors both by mobile policemen and by street-located sensors. Through this, it will be possible to locate every boda boda involved in any crime.
This transponder will give details of ownership and the address of the culprit and in this way, tame the rogue nature of their trade.
It should also be made practically impossible for these boda bodas to operate without first becoming members of an organized group or Sacco. The group will take the responsibility of ensuring that all their riders are licensed and in possession of the annual Police Clearance Certificate and that motorcycles are insured and passenger complaints are properly addressed.
It is also high time the National Police Service puts in place a special unit dealing with the boda boda sector especially since it involves a population of over a million Kenyans. Why have an anti-stock theft unit that addresses a few cattle rustlers and not have a boda boda unit? The boda boda unit can oversee activities of these boda boda operators and Saccos.